Keeping standards high in times of disruption
A conversation between Windward CEO Ami Daniel and Rear Admiral Lee Goddard, commanding officer for the Australian Maritime Border Command
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COVID-19 has brought trade, shipping, and maritime security to the forefront of global discussions. However, these are not new topics. Some nations, such as Australia, are amongst the leaders of maritime border protection due to the nature of the country being an island, where protection of health, trade, and environment is constantly at the forefront.
Ami Daniel asked Rear Admiral Lee Goddard to share his key insights as leaders all around the world are required to adapt how they work, manage, lead, and communicate.
Below are our top five takeaways on how countries can keep standards high during times of disruption:
1. Build on Cultural Strengths
As an island nation, Australia has cultivated a culture of strong customs and immigration controls to protect its industries, fauna, and environment. The global spread of COVID-19 has, as a result, become an extension of the steady-state of security Australia already employs, rather than a fundamental change.
2. Move Fast and Fix Things Faster
While rapid tightening of national borders is effective, countries cannot afford to be complacent in their reaction. To help uphold high standards during times of disruption, nations must balance new measures with economic issues. The best way to do that is by working through the areas of trade affected and addressing them in collaboration both with industry leaders and the leaders of other nations.
3. Don’t Compromise on Core Responsibilities
While disruptions to the routine bring about new challenges, it is imperative to remain focused at all times. If adversaries sense distraction, they might try to take advantage of the situation.
4. Always Keep Standards High
From a leadership perspective, you should lead by example when dealing with disruption. This means setting and abiding by the same standards and expectations you always have. Lowering standards because of disruption will yield lower-standard results, and that is something organizations cannot afford.
5. Training for Disruptions
Right now it is COVID-19, but a few months ago it was bushfires and smoke, however Australia’s security – and standards – never wavered. While neither disruption could be predicted, what could be predicted is the inevitability of disruption. That is why organizations must regularly test disruption preparedness and use these as training and learning opportunities.
Click on the map for a real-time view of shipping activity around the world
Want more than our top takeaways? Read an edited version of the full conversation transcript below
Ami Daniel: How are you these days?
RADM Lee Goddard: Yeah, good. I’m well.
Ami Daniel: How are things in Australia? Here in Tel Aviv it’s been full lockdown for the last two and a half weeks.
RADM Lee Goddard: I think Australia has sensibly gone to a level of social restrictions, but I wouldn’t say it’s a full lockdown. I think we’re closing the valve when and if required. A lot of goodwill and history will judge us whether we got the health, socio and economic median right or not. So from an Australian perspective, we’re not in full lockdown, but certainly, there are significant social restrictions at the moment.
Ami Daniel: We’re seeing images of airplanes parked wherever they could find room to put them because you need somewhere to put the thousands of airplanes without anything to do. We’re not exactly seeing the same pictures with ships today, which is a stark difference. Is everything still flowing in and out in Australia?
RADM Lee Goddard: I’m in a privileged position because while I’m a military officer as a serving navy admiral, I’m also part of our Home Affairs working with our border Force, which covers immigration and customs. So it’s a positive tension. I mean you want to protect Australia, and especially the maritime environment from security, but you also want to allow legitimate trade and people movement. So you’ve actually got a balanced sort of view.
With people moving, of course, that’s been severely restricted. Australia’s borders are essentially closed to non-Australian residents, and we’re still repatriating, but in terms of trade, we are still seeing high levels of shipping, not quite the same levels, because Australia is our lifeline is our economy, like most countries by sea. So we’re still seeing good levels of shipping in terms of our trade and sensible application of COVID-19 restrictions, which are essentially human restrictions not cargo and trade restrictions. So I think Australia, there’ll be some challenges, but I think we’re getting the balance right at the moment, relative to the seriousness of the situation. And also the risks versus threats, first its risks, I think.
Ami Daniel: So on that, let me show you something which I think you’d like. So if you can see my screen, this is just a live map we launched last week, to show the world that actually trade is still flowing. There are about 700 vessels currently on the way to Australia, half of them come from China, and more from Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, and in terms of the duration of the voyage, because obviously the 14 days bar for COVID-19 is important, a lot of these journeys are shorter than 14 days.
What’s your perspective on this? Do you think about restrictions in terms of a minimum of 14 days? Do you check everybody? Does it affect trade? What have you seen in other nations? Because I think everybody’s kind of trying to grapple and scratch their heads. Australia’s kind of a world leader and always been in this, especially given the Iron Ore trade ties to China.
RADM Lee Goddard: Look, I think Australia throughout its relatively modern history has always been very strong on border and quarantine control. We are very protective of our Industries, our fauna, our environment. And because we’re an Island we have, I guess, the privilege and the advantage of being able to do that. So we’ve always had a culture and practice a very strong quarantine and very strong Customs and Border Protection when it comes to threats to Australia, balanced again against legitimate trade and people movement, making those efficient and effective as it can. So I think this is an extension of that.
I mean, I think the lengths of some of those vessels journey to Australia, if we can slow them down to make it fourteen days, naturally it’s to our advantage again. I mean so we are working very closely, and I won’t talk about every case, but Australia’s starting point is rigid in terms of rules and application of quarantine and biosecurity protocols where common sense comes into play. So there may be some kind of exemptions based on a range of issues, but the starting point is very strict.
Ami Daniel: Interesting, because the UK is also an island, and India isn’t an island but to a large extent, it is half an Island. By the way, Israel is definitely not an island, but effectively all our land borders are closed for security reasons. So how do you see Australia’s approach versus the UK versus the US, because the US also has huge maritime borders? Do you see any differences in approach, things others can maybe learn from what you are doing?
RADM Lee Goddard: We work very closely with a range of partners across the globe, whether that be the US, UK, China on a range of issues when it comes to security and trade, etc. So we, of course, we’re in close contact with our UK and US colleagues, and even today I’ve been speaking to a US Colleague about some of their processes with working with the cruise ship industry, and other industries, in terms of really open and transparent communication. I’d say our approaches have been similar, but again there are some differences.
For Australia, fortunately, we have a tyranny of distance. We are a very large island, but because of that distance, the strict requirements on quarantine and periods at sea are often being met by the distance from most of our major trading partners in Northeast Asia, such as China, South Korea, and Japan. There are many trading partners we have, but those would be an example of where we’ve been able to modify some of our arrangements to meet our strict quarantine and biosecurity threats requirements.
Ami Daniel: I hear you, although I guess that should also have an economic impact. I think the journey from Indonesia to Australia should be about six days, and think I read something about the cattle trade from Queensland that might be affected because these vessels need to prolong their wait by two and a half times. So I guess everybody is taking a hit.
How do you see that balance between industry and government? So obviously the government needs to make sure nobody gets infected, that they don’t ‘import’ more COVID-19 to the country. But on the other hand, for this to be sustainable, there’s an ecosystem we don’t want to collapse.
RADM Lee Goddard: As a general principle, the Australian government’s position is the protection of the Australian population and our residents. So the very rapid tightening of our borders has been effective, we’re not being complacent, and then now balancing that against trade and biosecurity and quarantine arrangements. I’ve got no doubts some of our traditional trade, which is very important to Australia’s economic and social existence, is being affected. But again, they are working through those issues at that time.
Of course, it’s not just for Australia, because you’ve got to make sure you understand where we’re exporting as it can potentially be seen as exporting threats. So we’re working very closely with those countries. If other countries have other standards when it comes to quarantine and biosecurity, we will work with those countries on those standards. But of course, importing into Australia, that’s a different matter, that’s a black and white from a strategy perspective regardless of trade and opportunities.
Ami Daniel: It’s an interesting perspective I didn’t think about before. I’ve been reading recently on the correlation between poor social-economic statuses and unemployment rates, and then we know there’s a correlation between unemployment and criminal offenses. So do you see that coming up in the Australasia region?
RADM Lee Goddard: As the commander of Maritime border command of Australia, in some ways the de facto Coast Guard working within the Australian Border Force and of course with the Australian Defence Force, we are responsible for a range of civil maritime threats, which includes resource protection and particularly illegal fishing. Not just within Australia’s exclusive economic zone, but also internationally.
We are monitoring those trends very carefully to ensure that in our immediate region there’s no perception that our eyes are off the game or we have been distracted. So we will continue to enforce Australia’s sovereignty and also watch all those other potential threats to Australia where they are our offshore oil and gas industry, on our trade industry. Of course, one scourge that Australia deals with and this is where criminal activity may increase is any suggestion that Australia would be easier for illegal migration. Illegal migration has a number of nexus criminal activities such as potential narcotics, people smuggling trade, slave trade, etc as well. So we’re watching all those trends very carefully. I think collectively Australia will make sure there’s no perception that not only have we closed our borders and we’re making our country safe, but we’re also watching very closely our maritime jurisdiction and our maritime regions to ensure there’s no increase in illegal activity across all those fears.
That said, we’re very focused on, through intelligence and other means on that threat, but it also could be illegal fishing, it could be narcotics. It could be a range of threats. So we are ensuring that we are disrupting, deterring, and ensuring compliance even in these very challenging times.
Ami Daniel: That’s very insightful, thank you. Maybe one leadership question to wrap up?
Recently, I’ve spoken to one of our Insurance clients, an insurance company, one of the world’s biggest, and they’re going to work from home for at least two months and of course probably four to six months. Obviously all of our company is already working from home for three weeks. That changes the dynamics between people, because you’re used to seeing people every day there, run into each other all day, exchange views on something, and move on.
As a leader of an organization, and specifically of a maritime organization in a very big country, you have obviously people around Australia, how do you see the difference in leading an organization these times, and how should leaders think about that and maybe think about staying connected with their people despite the distancing?
RADM Lee Goddard: Well, one comment I will say about Australia, we’ve had to transition into the covid-19 crisis and a very bad bushfire and smoke. So we were as a society very disrupted during our traditional holiday Christmas period. And of course, it wasn’t just massive bushfires on a huge scale and displacement of people and people having to adapt to working and living differently and the whole of the government apparatus working remotely in other areas to support. But we already, but we have really thick smoke which meant many of our office buildings were not actually able to be used so we actually were, for all the wrong reasons, we had an advantage that we actually were quite disrupted, and we’d already started to test remote working, IT systems, the culture, the outputs, the social issues, the leadership and management and connection you still need to maintain with your workforce. In Australia we have a fairly good IT Network and National Broadband Network, so that’s one thing that has helped us.
From a leadership perspective, of course, it really is staying connected with your teams, both from an assurance perspective, but also from a discipline and an output perspective as well. Most of our people do not want to be bored at home. They want to keep working as efficiently and effectively as they can. So I think from a leadership perspective it’s engaging to create much shorter, sharper, more regular communication, don’t labor it. But really setting the same standards and expectations. And of course, if you set new Norms about standards and expectations, then that’s exactly what you’ll get. So I think that’s how from a leadership perspective we are working through this very disruptive period globally and nationally.
Ami Daniel: To share some things we’ve seen that work in our company and in our ecosystem that’s daily check-ins, so we make sure all our team has a daily five, and that managers check in with their team. Loneliness could be a big challenge nowadays because some of us have families, some of us don’t. And that means people could not see anyone for six weeks, so these daily check-ins align in terms of what you have done last week? What are you going to do this week? Where are we training? What are we planning to do?
Actually, I find it’s a really good time for deep thinking and collaborations. A lot of people are much more open to long-term Partnerships. Most of our clients and most of our partners have time to hop on a 30-minute phone call simply because they’re not traveling anymore. So I guess there could be long-term impacts for this.
Maybe on one final note, there is a great article in the Atlantic called “How the pandemic will end”. And I think one of the most interesting pieces of advice I read there is that this is not a binary situation with COVID or without COVID because of the time it will take to create an effective vaccine or achieve immunity because you need more than 50% of the population to be infected. It means we’re going to probably as a society be playing whack-a-mole with COVID for next 12 to 24 months and that’s probably the new normal.
Do you have a kind of a personal forecast or prediction? What’s your perspective, how long will this be, where are we going, and how should we be thinking about this?
RADM Lee Goddard: Certainly Australia, in terms of the limitations and restrictions, we are planning for at least six months, but the reality is in terms of socio, health, and economics, that’s going to go. We may never be where we were before, and there will be a new normal. And so where this ends obviously is a question that we are preparing for now. In ‘The Martian’ there are some great quotes that eventually everything will go south, and you just got to deal with one problem at a time as they come and just keep dealing with them and dealing with them and dealing with them until when you get to the end. As much as we did try and test ourselves, as a national security and national society, last year by disrupting ourselves, we just didn’t do that seriously enough.
Now next time, once we’re out of this situation, we have to regularly test disrupting ourselves because this is a new normal. Australia was disrupted during the bush fires, and it made that we’ve been able to respond, I think as a society to COVID-19 far better because of it.
Ami Daniel: So one good thing that came out of COVID, we have an opportunity to talk and I learned a lot about your approach and about Australia. You know, necessity is the mother of invention. So we are seeing unprecedented innovation and how to build ventilators within five days where otherwise it would take five months. So thank you so much for coming. I know you’re so busy and have a great day and keep healthy. I’ll talk to you soon.
RADM Lee Goddard: Thank you, you too as well, I actually really enjoy the opportunity to talk about what we’re doing but also to hear about your perspectives on it. So it’s really important to stay connected whether we’re in Australia or in Israel or in any part of the globe. So good to talk. Speak soon.